For congressional hopeful Underwood, nursing is just part of the act
In college, congressional candidate Lauren Underwood studied to be a nurse.
Not that she ever aspired to work with actual patients.
Her University of Michigan classmates spent their summers working at hospitals, assisting doctors and learning on the job. But Underwood headed to Washington, D.C., instead, to intern for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama.
“ICU (intensive care unit) or mother-baby, like that just wasn’t my interest,” she told former Obama campaign staffer turned podcaster Ravi Gupta on his show, “The Arena,” back in April. "I always knew that this policy space was where I would land."
The 32-year old Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Plano) has been widely described as the “Naperville nurse running for Congress.”
But she just moved back to her native Naperville last year. And while she’s registered to practice nursing, she never has, in Illinois, nor anywhere else
That Underwood never actually worked as a nurse— in college or after graduation— might come as a surprise to voters in the 14th Congressional District, now familiar with the torrent of television advertisements depicting her with a stethoscope serving patients.
According to her Linkedin page, Underwood's first job out of school in 2010 was with the Obama Administration working on Obamacare’s roll-out. She says she was “preparing memos and briefing materials” for Kathleen Sebelius, the then-U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Underwood worked six years for President Obama, her salary rising from $67,114 to $98,289, before quitting after he left office, in Jan. 2017.
She moved back to Naperville to live with her parents, collecting nine weeks worth of unemployment benefits— approximately $4,000 from the District of Columbia, according to her personal financial disclosure statement—before deciding to run for Congress.
“Lauren Underwood, R.N.”
Underwood may have never wanted to be a practicing nurse. But her campaign consultants thought it made for a better storyline than the actual one.
Her biography begins by describing her as a “registered nurse.” In her interviews and speeches, Underwood frequently describes intimate patient interactions that, she claims, inspired her run against Hultgren.
She told Now This Politics, that, “as a nurse, I have looked into my patients’ eyes when giving discharge instructions knowing they cannot afford the prescription that we’re handing to them.”
According to her own biography, Underwood has never worked as a practicing nurse in a hospital, or in any setting where she would be discharging patients.
In her television advertisements, she has been regularly portrayed in “hands-on” nursing situations— ones her own biography also makes clear she has never experienced.
In her first commercial, Underwood strolls out into what looks like a doctor’s waiting room, a stethoscope around her neck and clipboard in her hand.
Underwood introduces herself.
“As a registered nurse, treating patients…”
The spot was actually shot in a Naperville dentist’s office, White Eagle Dentistry, a few blocks from her parents home in the White Eagle Golf Club subdivision.
A February casting call, advertised on Facebook, asked for “a few volunteers to join us for a photoshoot tomorrow (2/8) midday. Looking for friendly faces of all ages, genders, backgrounds. Please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
14th Congressional District includes most of Kane County as well as parts of Kendall, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will and DeKalb.